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How To Build Your Back Using Body Weight Training
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How to Build Your Back Using Body Weight Training

Can you build a V shaped back using body weight training?

Of course. One of the best lat builders is the good old pull up.

But what if you can’t do a pull up? It’s OK. Work on a progression of exercises building up to completing full bodyweight pull ups. And there are plenty of other body weight training exercises you can work on.

Back training exercises are pulling moves. The pull up, rowing exercises, the dead lift and low back exercises like back extensions and good mornings.

The V is formed from the top and bottom

First, a note about improving your V shaped torso. It is often said that taking an inch or two off your waistline will do more for your V shaped appearance than adding three or four inches to your back-chest measurement. And it is probably much easier to do. So if the V look is your goal, a focus on body fat reduction will certainly help. If you really want a strong back that incidentally will be V shaped, read on.

How to build your back using body weight training.

Start with horizontal rowing. Most people will have enough back and arm strength to perform this move when first starting out. Go to the local school yard or park with a playground and find a waist high horizontal bar. It may be part of a climbing contraption or built into another piece of equipment. Get under the bar with arms slightly wider than shoulder width. Focus on pulling using the lat muscles rather than arm pulling. Feel the lats contract at the bottom of the pull and touch your chest to the bar at the top. Do 10 reps. Rest and repeat.

The load or effective weight you are pulling can be modified by adjusting your body position. When you get further under the bar or in a more horizontal body position, the load is heavier. Move the feet closer to the bar and body is angled more thus reducing the effective load you are pulling. Other adjustments you can make to add variety are hand position on the bar. A wider grip will flex the upper lats more while a narrower grip will hit the lower lats more. Narrow grips also engage the biceps a bit more. Reverse your grip (palms up) for additional bicep engagement.

A strong core is paramount

Lower back work is essential to improving core strength. If fact, most people who say they have a “bad back” really just have a weak lower back. Studies have shown that improving low back strength will eliminate most “bad back” symptoms. This assumes that you really don’t have a structural problem like a disc injury or bone spur. If you do have real pain, get it checked out prior to engaging in any exercise program.

The back extension is a great body weight training exercise for improving lower back strength and flexibility. A back extension bench is required however but this will prove to be a good investment. The study referenced earlier claims that once you can perform 3 sets of 25 repetitions, your “bad back” symptoms will likely be gone. Start slow with a set or two of 10 reps and work up from there.

The good morning is a comparable exercise for lower back strength if you don’t have a back extension bench. The good morning is simply a bowing move from standing straight up to bending over to nearly 90 degrees from the waist. It’s like taking a deep bow on stage after a stellar performance. Bow down with just a slight bend to the knees and stand back up. You’ll probably want to add a little weight when you get used to this one. You can hold a barbell plate to your chest or even use a rock.

Pick it and put it down

If squatting is the king of leg work, dead lifting is the key to building your back. Dead lifting is simply picking up something from the ground to a standing position and putting it back down. The dead lift is really a full body move. Legs, back, core, traps and grip strength will be challenged. You can really burn the fat with the deadlift. You can start out just moving your body through the range of motion however adding weight will soon be needed. A barbell is easiest to use when adding weight but you could use a rock, concrete block or sandbag as well. Do your dead lifts for overall back development.

And back to the pull up. You just have to regain (or obtain) the ability to do pull ups. Your grip strength and shoulder socket strength may be lacking at first. Just start hanging from bars to work these areas. Hang for a long as you can, drop down, rest and hang again. Use different thickness bars to build the grip strength faster. The thicker bars will strain the forearms more. The shoulder sockets will eventually feel stronger and you can move on to negative pull ups.

Going negative is not just for politics

Negative pull ups are starting at the top pull up position (chin over bar) and controlling the descent of your body against gravity. Use a ladder or stool to boost yourself to the top position and try to control the slow descent to the bottom position. Focus on the lats holding you back and not the arms. You'll soon be able to do a single pull up.

Now do a pull up and then right into a couple of negative pull ups. Repeat. You are on you way to building the V shaped back of your dreams.

Use body weight training, or slightly weighted training, to build your back successfully. Pull ups, rowing, dead lifts and lower back specific moves will get the job done. For faster V shaped results, burn the body fat and reduce the waistline.


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I needed this article, thanks!

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